Empirical Economics

, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 1697-1718

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Can statisticians beat surgeons at the planning of operations?

  • Paul JoustraAffiliated withAcademic Medical Center and Amsterdam School of Economics, University of Amsterdam
  • , Reinier MeesterAffiliated withAmsterdam School of Economics, University of Amsterdam
  • , Hans van OphemAffiliated withAmsterdam School of Economics, University of Amsterdam Email author 


The planning of operations in the Academic Medical Center is primarily based on the assessments of the length of the operation by the surgeons. We investigate whether duration models employing the information available at the moment the planning is made, offer a better alternative. Our empirical results indicate that statistical methods often do better than surgeons. This does not imply that the surgeons’ predictions do not contain valuable information. This information is a key explanatory variable in our statistical models. What our conclusion does entail is that a correction of the predictions of surgeons is possible because they are often under- or overestimating the actual length of operations.


Efficient planning of operations Duration models Cost reduction

JEL Classification

I10 I12